The Oberlin Schools Endowment Fund is celebrating its 30th anniversary of making a difference, one donation at a time.
Dale Preston, president of the board of directors, said the fund occasionally gets donations of $1,000 or more but most are between $25 and $300.
While most donations are modest, they add up: The fund has provided about $610,000 in grants to the school district since 1987.
“We recognize that the school endowment fund is sort of a quiet, behind-the-scenes activity that a lot of people don’t know about,” Preston told board of education members at their meeting Dec. 13. “But with your help in talking about it and helping to promote it, we hope to grow our donor pool in order to make even more grants in the future.”
The endowment sends out about 3,500 letters seeking donations each year. The money received is invested by the Community Foundation of Lorain County. The endowment has contributed about $40,000 annually to the district since 1999.
The fund typically receives 15 to 30 grant applications from teachers and students annually. Preston said the grant committee members spend 10 to 20 hours reviewing applications.
About 70 percent of applications are funded. Those that have the widest impact and most innovative ideas are most likely to receive money.
Preston said some people falsely believe it’s fun to distribute the money.
“It is very rewarding work but, let me tell you, it’s very difficult work,” he said. “We have competing grant proposals and we can’t quite fund them all.”
This school year, 27 grants have been awarded. They included $6,500 for the Helping Students Participate Equally project; $4,000 to pay for a trip to Washington, D.C., by eighth-graders; and $3,500 for the Oberlin Athletic Booster Club Campership Fund.
Other awards included $3,500 for the Oberlin Backpack Program, which fills backpacks with food for needy students and their families; $2,100 for the Breezin’ Through Music Theory and Composition program; and $2,100 to send students to the annual Ohio Model United Nations Conference.
Preston said the fund’s investments are worth about $850,000 and the goal is to exceed $1 million. “It would generate more funding and we could do more with it,” he said.
School board member Barry Richard said the efforts of the all-volunteer board of directors are greatly appreciated. “I know it’s (hard) work,” Richard said.
Evan Goodenow can be reached at 440-775-1611 or @GoodenowNews on Twitter.